Shrimp and Grits

I cook pretty healthfully. At least 80% of our meals are vegetarian, and half of those are vegan. We juice 5 or more times a week. We go through vegetables like you would not believe.

But, sometimes I want to eat something really, really bad for me.

(I feel it's telling that I'm sharing this the day that I start an at-least-7-day juice cleanse. I'm hoping that the tell is that I'm getting this out of the way to focus, not that I'm giving in already.)

The recent Mardi Gras was a chance for us to do just that. David was beside himself with excitement at the prospect of real bacon, cheese, and cream.

Shrimp and grits is one of those meals that I save for days when we want to eat something heart-clogging. It's a recipe that has slowly evolved over the years into a really great treat. And really, when you haven't eaten it in almost a year, it makes it all the better and totally worth it.

Shrimp and Grits

4 cups water
1 cup stone ground grits (don't even think about using instant)
1 stick butter
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or roughly chopped if you're lazy like me)
1 T garlic powder (I know, I know, but it works better here than fresh minced)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

2 T butter
4 slices bacon (I use low sodium; helps me justify)
3/4 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock, slightly warm
3 cups medium shrimp, deveined, peeled, de-tailed
Salt and pepper
Scallions and lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add grits, whisking constantly to prevent clumpage (it's a word; my word). Reduce and let simmer for 3 minutes.

Remove grits from stove and pour into oven safe dish. Mix in all the other grits ingredients (I do tasting/seasoning, and then add the egg last) and put into the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

To make shrimp, cook bacon until almost crispy in a skillet (I use a seriously seasoned cast iron one). Put cooked bacon on a paper towel to strain. Pour about half the grease into a coffee mug and set aside, just in case you need it.

Add onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until soft. Put in garlic and stir around for about a minute. Add in herbs and spices, cooking until they smell amazing.

At this point, if things are pretty dry, pour in a bit of the reserved grease. Once hot, sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly for about a minute. Slowly pour in chicken stock a bit at a time, stirring constantly, until you get a good gravy consistency. Don't use all the stock if you don't need it. Season to taste.

Pinch up bacon and put into the gravy. Add shrimp. If using precooked, the shrimp just needs to heat through. If using fresh, let gravy simmer until shrimpies are opaque.

Spoon grits into a bowl and top with a generous glop of shrimpy goodness. Sprinkle with scallions and squeeze a bit of lemon on top and chow down. It's about to get real serious.

*I rarely measure anything when I cook, so taste often and cater to your own tastes.


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

We are some for-serious hummus eaters around here. We love hummus. A lot.

I remember the first time I ever tried to actually make my own hummus. It was a disaster. I didn't try to make it again for about 4 more years.

Then, a few weeks ago I decided I would try it again. And it was fantastic.

And so, I thought I would share.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 can garbonzo beans, thoroughly rinsed
3 cloves garlic
2 T sesame seeds
2 T olive oil (plus more, as needed, to reach right smoothness)
2 T ground cumin
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
1 T sesame oil
Salt & pepper

Throw it all in a food processor and grind. Serve with a warm pita (or 5).


Chocolate Macarons

I am looking forward to the food the most.

Sure, my impending trip will be a chance to learn (whoa, so excited about Blogshop) and a chance to have some much-needed alone time to explore my favorite city on the face of the planet. But, really, I can't wait to eat more food (mostly carbs) than any human being should be allowed.

Bagettes, croissants, les fromages, les bon bons, wine, cafe au lait, croque monsieurs. On and on and on. Oh, and macarons.

Macarons are something I've wanted to try my hand at for a while. So, this weekend I gave them a try.

I followed this recipe by David Lebovitz and they turned out super yummy, but a little too well done. I cooked for the 15 minutes requested, but I think they could have done with 1-2 minutes less. But, really, who cares; there's ganache in there.

So, Paris, my taste buds are reacquainting themselves. I hope you're ready.


Grilled Zucchini Pizzas

I think I need to make a bit of a confession.

I'm addicted to Pinterest.

And not the website (on the computer) but the App. While putting Lily down for her nap, or taking a break on the couch/porch, I open up the App on whatever mobile device I have handy and I start pinning. And pinning. And pinning. It's becoming an issue.

But it's a good thing. I've found cool DIYs, some eye candy and lots of recipes. Most of which are chocolate, but also some (2) healthy ones. Like these zucchini pizzas.

I pinned these a while back, and last week at the farmer's market I found monster zucchinis. I'm talking over a foot long, and big enough around that I could barely circle it with my two hands. And they were 25 cents each. Yea. I know.

So I grabbed one, not that I'm cheap, but these suckers were huge, and I made these zucchini pizzas.

I topped mine with a bit of tomato sauce, reduced fat mozzerella (roll your eyes, go ahead), black olives, and turkey pepperoni (and again). They were amazing. I'm imagining doing this again with mushrooms and spinach. Or red onion and ham. Yum.

Who knew pizza could be so healthy!

Here's the original recipe, from this Pinterest pin.


Long Live Fitness

Some of you may know Heather around here as Viva, the paper designer and Piccola partner. Recently my pal Heather launched a fitness blog, Long Live Fitness. (Get it? Viva = Long Live. Ha!)

Heather started her current fitness journey with P90X, right after I started in February. I was having late night dates with Tony Horton and Heather got jealous. So she started dating him too, with her husband. Awkward.

Well, Heather did way better than me, losing 13 lbs and getting fantastically fit. Then she started Chalean Extreme and became a Beachbody Coach, because she's just crazy-cool like that.

And hence the birth of Long Live Fitness. I'll make occasional appearances as the food girl, like my recent post about indulging in intense veggie quiches. You should check it out and congratulate Heather on her fantastic progress. She's killin' it!


Emily's Summer Sip

I shared my favorite summer cocktail over on Piccola's After Hours section today. Trust me, this one's a keeper.


Burgers and Cheese

I have previously discussed my issues with meat. It really grosses me out. As in I can't touch it, and sometimes not even look at it, but this does not mean that I don't like to eat it. Because I do. Sometimes.

We do live a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle, with more than 3/4 of our meals not including meat. However, sometimes I (and more often, David) want a burger, or chicken breast, or a freakin' hot dog. Because I love hot dogs.

And so occasionally we'll eat a big meaty meal, and though I always feel like crap afterwards (eating meat makes me feel a bit sick) I sure enjoy it while I eat it.

Whenever we do eat meat, we try with all our might to go local. (Except for the hot dogs, of course.) Our farmer's market supplies us with all the sausage and beef that we consume in our house, and we only buy turkey bacon from the grocery store. Everything else is local. That's my rule. (Except for the hot dogs.)

When the farmer's market started back this spring, with its plants and veggies, we also got our first pound of ground beef that's been present in this house since last summer. It was time for a hamburger.

Sure, we could have done the regular old burgers with regular old squares of cheese, but why not make our first burger in goodness-knows-how-long extra, extra special.

I did this by making a really easy and yummy cheese spread for burgers, or about anything else you can think of. And it's really yummy stuff.


1/4 cup crumbly cheese (I've used both local bleu cheese and feta, each are very yummy for different reasons.)
palmful of walnuts
splash of milk
dash of pepper

Put it all in a food processor and puree. If it's too soupy, add a bit more cheese and walnuts. Too clumpy: add a bit more milk.



Nutella Scones

I feel like a massive hypocrite. 

And I hate hypocrites.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my quest for filling myself with all-around wholesome goodness. A quest for health and happiness. And balance.

I'm pretending that to achieve balance I also need to occasionally have very bad for you (but equally or more so yummy) foods. You can pretend with me.

And part of this quest for faux balance landed on my porch last month in the form of Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. And it's real yummy.

I've only attempted a single recipe from the book - Nutella Scones - as the rest are a bit evil even for me. At least for now. I plan on a truly evil day very soon so that I can try out something else.

So, if you get the hankering for an over-indulgent snack, you have got to check out this book. I mean, any book that makes a breakfast food out of Nutella has got to be insanely scrumptious-filled, correct? Seriously, just looking at it might be enough, though why would you want to stop there?


Sweet and Salty Granola

Oh, Spring. How I love thee.

Spring is finally in full swing in the mountains. We're watching the mountain turn green, one layer at a time, up the sides. A day doesn't go by without the sound of a neighbor's lawnmower. And I'm in full Spring-food mode.

I'm also in full healthy-food mode.

Back in February I started P90X. And I worked hard. For 60 days. And then it caught up with me.

Throughout the 60 days I continued having issues balancing food and working out. My little family and I eat pretty nutritiously. Steamed vegetables, non-meat protein, whole grains. I couldn't tell you the last time I had a slice of white bread. Or Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. We eat healthily (but with occasional trips to Pizza Hut - what? We are American) but it wasn't enough for me. At least not the way I was doing it, apparently.

So, issues with food and working out vigorously 6 days a week. Either I wasn't eating enough and crashing while working out, or I was eating too much and had to stop working out to keep from puking on Tony. I could NOT find middle ground.

And then it hit me.

What should have been my first week of Phase 3 (the final phase) of P90X turned into me being fatigued and unable to digest food. Not pleasant, but it happened. I stopped working out and hit the books - or the internet - to try to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.

I came to the conclusion that I needed to stop working out and spend a solid week focusing on my nutrition. I needed to regulate my body, and then spend the second week adding back a few workouts, until I could do them both at the same time. Harmony. That's what I need.

So, I'm all about getting my body back on track, and finally shedding a few pounds. I've been working my buns off for the past two month and successfully only dropped half a pound. Though 5 inches around my waist. Win some, lose some, right?

I'm returning to my regular workouts next week, and today I feel better than I have in months. I've been filling my body with nutritious things, rebuilding my inner strength (to match these fab arm muscles I'm getting), with the help of even more whole grains and steamed veggies.

And my champion breakfast? Greek yogurt, honey, homemade granola, and strawberries. Sometimes it's lunch too. And maybe supper. The mix of sweet and salty makes it ok to eat whenever. What? Don't judge.

Sweet and Salty Granola

2 cups rolled oats (don't even think about using instant)
1 T cinnamon (I admit I don't actually measure this. Just put what you want.)
1/4 cup ground flax seed (can't find ground? Grind whole ones in a clean coffee grinder.)
1 tsp salt (DO measure this!)
3 1/2 T vegetable oil
2 T honey
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup one kind of nut (I used hazelnuts this time, and have used almonds in the past)
1/4 cup another kind of nut (I always use walnuts)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl.

In small bowl, mix oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix into dry ingredients.

Spread evenly on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or aluminum foil sprayed lightly with non-stick spray) and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, toss, re-spread evenly and sprinkle on hard nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts). Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove, toss, re-spread and sprinkle with soft nuts (like walnuts). Return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

Serve however you like. Yogurt, in a bowl with a splash of milk, or by itself. And Lily LOVES helping me make this, and as there are no raw ingredients, no need to freak out about anything.


Veggie Pita

I have been scant around the studio this week. I'm still trying to rid myself of this sinus ickiness, but I think it's finally gone. At least I'm over falling asleep in random places throughout the house, and I don't have to carry a box of Kleenex with me from room to room anymore, though I still have man-voice. I think it has about worked it's way out, meaning I can get to enjoying this spring weather now. Yay!

I've spent the week dealing with feeling not-so-great, but I am a firm believer that food heals. I was raised in a home where hamburger helper and fast food was the norm, and I've grown to realize that those food make me feel like poo. I still enjoy not-so-great-for-you foods - we had greasy, yummy pizza just last night - but we eat them in fair moderation and I know my limits. I haven't had McDonald's in over 2 years. I know what I can allow myself to have and I know where to draw the line, and there's a firm line well before McDonald's.

When Bug or myself is sick - David is never sick - we go hardcore green. This week has been full of yumminess like baked sweet potatoes (I know, they're orange), broccoli and carrot stir fries, and my new favorite - veggie pitas.

Our current rendition is whole wheat pitas stuffed with hummus, cucumber, avocado and alfalfa. Lily eats them up like rabbit candy, and even I really love these yummy light lunches. And with the beach trip coming up and working hard at P90X, these are low in calories but give a good energy boost. All in all, quite good.

So, I'm getting back with it, and wondering if I can pull a fast one over on Lily and have these again for lunch today. Maybe this time with some roasted red peppers too. Yum.


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